Wednesday, February 03, 2010

So much for Calvinism, positive mental attitude and class hatred. . .

Tomorrow, my friend Randy Mayeux will present a synopsis of Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich at this month's installment of the Urban Engagement Book Club, a CDM public policy initiative. 

Ehrenreich authored the remarkable book Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America.

In her new book, she suggests that “positive thinking” is not always all that positive. At least not in all circumstances. Here is an excerpt from the last page of the book:
For centuries, or at least since the Protestant Reformation, Western economic elites have flattered themselves with the idea that poverty is a voluntary condition. The Calvinist saw it as a result of sloth and other bad habits; the positive thinker blamed it on a willful failure to embrace abundance… But the economic meltdown should have undone, once and for all, the idea of poverty as a personal shortcoming or dysfunctional state of mind. The lines at unemployment offices and churches offering free food include strivers as well as slackers, habitual optimists as well as the chronically depressed. When and if the economy recovers we can never allow ourselves to forget how widespread our vulnerability is, how easy it is to spiral down toward destitution.

The threats we face are real and can be vanquished only by shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world. Build up the levees, get food to the hungry, find the cure, strengthen the “first responders”!

Ehrenreich gets it. 

We should listen.

[If you live in Dallas, join us for the Urban Engagement Book Club from noon until 1:15 p.m. at the Highland Park United Methodist Church located on the campus at SMU.]


Anonymous said...

sounds like an interesting read. The book "The Narcissism Epidemic:
Living in the Age of Entitlement" relates to the self-help movement.

I'm not sure how Calvinism got involved and it would seem that greed and entitlement have had a great impact not necessarily work ethic.

I plan on looking up these books.


Aaron said...

I'm not sure that's a very fair reading of Calvinism, both historical and modern.